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How I Edit

16 Mar

I edit others work. A lot. A lot, a lot. Did I mention I do edits a lot? No? Well I do. I’ve always loved going over others work, combing through it, making it better.  Helping great writers get even greater. (And in the process it makes me a better writer too) It’s awesome. And so, I thought today I would share how I edit.  I’ll be demonstrating how I crit using an entry from the ‘On Thin Ice’ Flash Fiction Contest’ I hosted back in January.

This piece is by one of my lovely followers. Rae Ann. Who asked me to critique her piece for her, and was lovely enough to volunteer to be featured in this post. You can find her blog  HERE.

The first thing I do when reading a manuscript is do line edits. Oh how I LOVE LINE EDITS! (Some of you call them track changes). The thing is, I don’t like doing just global editing. Sure global editing is important, but if I can’t get all the little nuances out-of-the-way how can I focus? So, I go in and do cross outs, (add a comma or period here and there), but mostly, as I go I make comments about mood, character, and what I’m feeling (or worse, not feeling) while reading here is a photo of Rae Ann’s piece all marked up (you can select the photo for a zoom in):

To get a better look at what my line edits look like i’ll give you some specific examples:

EX 1:

Like pins and needles, it stabbed, pricked and pierced * into my  feet. it seared through my soles and to the nerves,** slowly but mercilessly ***scorching my spine, burning into every fiber of my body.

And this is what I said about my edits in the comments:

*I would use only one of these. Using all of them adds a lot of bulk to the sentence that it doesn’t need.

**If your saying that it’s making her feet prickle/stab/ etc. then they are obviously tender. I would recommend cutting this.

***I would choice either slowly or mercilessly both of them make the sentence sound too clunky in my opinion.

EX 2:

My muscles squealed with a throbbing ache* as I forced myself **to take a few more steps. The cottage swam shakily into view, and I blinked my eyes a few times to make sure that it was still there.

I chose this one because it gives a good example of how I add in writerly tid-bits. I always feel like I should put one of those cheesy “tips” columns in like they do in how-to books when I write something like this. These are the corresponding comments:

*Not sure how I feel about this sentence. I would cut or change it. It reads awkwardly to me.

** Sorry… freaked for a minute there, but you want to stay away from using as if at all possible. As it stutters the ‘time stream’ that I was talking about earlier. As, is… well, how do I explain this?

As says that your character is doing something at the same time as they are doing something else, usually this isn’t good to put in because it causes the reader to have to add something to their mental image, instead of naturally flowing into the next sentence… does that make sense? I hope so… I’m not very good at explaining this am I?\

Anyway, after I do line edits/track changes, I always do an ‘Overview’ letter. If I’m doing a novel edit I sometimes do this for each chapter. Basically this is where I try to lay out the big picture issues and high points of the novel/story. This needs work, but this is awesome, kind of thing.  Here is what Rae Ann’s overview letter looked like. It was rather short since I only had four pages to edit.

I guess that’s about it.

How do you all do edits? Any tips?


Top 11 Posts of 2011

16 Dec

Hey you all it’s time for another installment of the NI Awards. Today I’m posting the top viewed posts on Novel Ideas for the past year. I hope you all check them out!

11. Fresh & Crisp Metaphors!

10. How Creative People Think- Getting Ideas

9.  The Problem with Pixies

8. Kissing Death

7. I’d Like to Think Writing Has a Color

6. Mesh ’em – Science, History, and Writing

5. Writing The Steam

4. The Golden Ring of Moments

3. Musing on Strawberry Ice cream

2. You are Alligator Kibble!

And finally, The number one post of 2011 is…. *drum roll*:

1. Traumatic or Dramatic? Life after a Death Scene



11 Jun

Before I got in deep with BTE this past year, I wrote a lot of poetry. All last summer I wrote a poem every flippin’ day!

And I realized, looking over some older work this past week, that I am a MUCH better writer for it.

I think, as “novelists” we tend to square ourselves off into our little box, and just stick with that one thing. Granted we may tip-top cautiously into short story or even (if we’re brave) non-fiction. But, I’ve noticed that most “fiction writers” don’t write poetry. I suppose it’s because it is so different from the style of prose writing, “it doesn’t even have paragraphs!” you say “how can that help me write a novel?”

Well, someone very wise once said that ” poetry is what is lost in translation”. In other words, poetry speaks volumes in a very crafty way. One well placed line of a poem can say a thousand times more than what three paragraphs of description can. Poets (good ones anyway) have a way of cutting to the chase and finding the very roots of a description, all the while communicating something more with that description.

Bottom line:

Poetry teaches you how to make every sentence pull double (even triple) duty!

Poets are the ultimate multitasker’s!

Take Maya Angelou’s poem “I rise” she uses the metaphor of “Like dust I rise” immediately you get a picture in your head don’t you? A perfect descriptor, of an effortlessm almost unstoppable climb. This line also shows the actual meaning of the poem, being Maya’s ability to keep coming back, and to never be tamped down by anything or anyone! Genius? Yes, I think so.

If you are able to infuse this powerful art into your writing you’ll have agents drooling at your feet! Crowds of  the opposite sex chasing you down the street…. okay maybe that was The Beatles…. yeah that was them.

:/ you get the point though, right?

Anyway if any of you are interested in getting feedbacks on your poetry I would recommend joining they have an AMAZING community that is über supportive and helpful!

Until next time, I leave you with a tid-bit of my own poetry. Enjoy!

Frozen Roses

Frozen rose
Bloody red
Shatter at the pavements headBleeding once a radiant love
Broken bitterly like the heart of a dove

Shattering petals blow in the wind
Crisp edge all curled in

Hiding in the dark of night
Carrying past kisses in a dead loves flight

Broken dreams
Broken hearts
Shattered roses to wanting embark

Frozen roses bundled black with silk
Heart sick with the loss of lovers they wilt

The sun shines upon them

but never do they heal
frozen roses un-distilledWilting with a love lost
Broken petals shriveled with frost

CURRENT MUSIC:  Somewhere a Clock is Ticking by SNOW PATROL


The Problem with PIXIES

7 Jun


YA is chalk full of paranormal. Particularly fairy/pixie stuff, among other things.

CARVE, my next project has a little to do with said mythical creatures, and I’m just now starting to consider the repercussions of said Pixie involvement in said novel.

After all don’t you think Pixies are being a little over done, and they are all done in the same way? May I note the following about “modern” pixies:

Extremely attractive

Human Like

No wings

Not evil

But not good either.

Generally, most pixie/fairy books fall into this criteria. And, frankly, it’s getting old. This is why taking on a Pixie book freaks me out. Granted, CARVES Pixies, follow none of those criteria (Let me stress that again NONE) but I fear that readers will automatically assume that it is just “another pixie paranormal” and I don’t want to be “pulp pixie fiction.” Even for a moment.

My Pixies’ are extremely dark, not nice little “hawteees” for Mary Sue. They have a taste for blood, knives, underground tunnels, and taking advantage of naive humans. (Yes, they also have wings.)

That’s another thing I don’t get. Why don’t any modern versions of pixies have wings? And they are all so human! (That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not my take on them for sure!)

I suppose that’s why they say “If there’s a book you want to read that isn’t written write it.”

I’m just kind of spazzing about writing a new project. Especially one that has so many assumptions automatically surrounding it because of its “Pixie content.” Anyway… that’s CARVE for you my “Pixie Project”. Here is the trailer for any of you that didn’t get to see it when I first posted it… two/three months ago? Anyway enjoy:

Anyone else have spazzy-ness about writing paranormal for these reasons? Or is it just me?

Outlining in Short

31 May


That is what I’m suppose to talk about it apparently. I’m not sure how much help I’ll be to anyone who needs to learn how to outline, because my outlining process is just as odd as my other writing habits, and is very apt to change.

I just haven’t posted anything useful lately and I feel very guilty. I’ve mostly just been ranting and that is not helpful to anyone.

But here goes nothing:

There are a few ways I outline both are very flexible and can be tailored to be looser or more detailed depending on the manuscript. For BTE I haven’t used either yet, as I DO NOT use any kind of actual outlining for first drafts. Most plotting for my first drafts goes on in my head as opposed to my second draft where I buckle down and actually put stuff on paper.

The first kind of outline I use is called “Domino Outlining” I wrote a post on this awhile back. Here is a little excerpt from it that tells what Domino Outlining is:

I view all the things that happen in a book as points of intersection. (The main characters world collides with a call to action, a call to action runs into an obstacle, characters cross each others paths, etc.) Each intersection changes your course, alters your path, and generally changes the final outcome of when and where you end up.

Each “intersection” so to speak, is like a domino. Each falls into the other, changing the path.

These are the points I come up with first. Following the age old advice of Lewis Carroll I “Begin at the beginning and go on till I come to the end: then stop.” I plan the course of events that “effect change” and turn my character in a new direction. This inevitably leads me to my ending. “

You can read the rest of that post with a corny example HERE.

The Next type of planning I use is called “Time Planning”

This basically is done by making a word doc. And breaking my story down into Months Weeks and days. I create a “month” title on the page then write the “biggest thing that happens in that month then I break the months into weeks, write what happens “Big” in those weeks, then keep breaking it down into days, sometimes hours if the book takes place within only a week or two. Example:


Duck finds out farmer is going to eat him

Week 1

Duck sees farmer sharpening axe

Day 1

Duck wakes up talks to horse

Day 2

Horse and duck walk around and see farmer

Day 3

Trail farmer and sees him sharpening axe

REALLY bad story, I know, but you see what I mean? You got to week 2, week 3, etc. This works really well for complex timelines, but can obviously be simplified. I use this a lot along with the next type of outlining.

My final major outlining technique is called “POV outlining”. This is best used with manuscripts that have more than one POV character but can be used with a singular POV character if you want.

Basically you take a POV character and using the timeline out ling shown above break it down even farther into sequences of events that happen to particular people. This is best shown so here you go:

Farmer                                                                         Duck

MARCH                                                                     MARCH

Decides to eat duck                                                Finds out farmer is going to eat him

I hope this has helped some of you find new plotting techniques. What do you all use to outline?

Words From Juan- An Interview

21 May

Hey all here is my wonderful interview with Juan Villagrana! Enjoy, and thank him for his awesomeness!

1. Despite the fact that this question is generally vague, and terribly hard to answer, I’m going to ask it anyway. Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?
            I find inspiration in so many different things. Sometimes it’s a particularly interesting line that springs into my head and demands to be expanded into a story. If I hear a song that goes with what I’m writing, I try to shape a particular scene around it. And strangely enough, really amazing cover art inspires me to some degree. Maybe it’s the desire to see my own books bearing gorgeous covers of their own. I could go on and on about inspiration, really.
2. Now, I know that your current WIP is mainly STARSONG, but you’ve recently embarked on a manuscript called DEVASTATE, can you tell us a little about it, and where you got the idea?
            Ooh, DEVASTATE. It’s basically a post-apocalyptic dystopian/steampunk novel that takes place in a future where Earth is all but entirely shattered by something Totally Ambiguous. The bulk of the story follows a winged boy who is held captive by the shady government. It chronicles his discovery of the lies they’ve spun around society and his consecutive fight for freedom and too many other things to list. And since I can’t say too much, that’s all I’ll say for now. *feels paranoid* But I promise that it’s way better than this meager description makes it seem.
            As for the source of the idea: I’ve always wanted to write a story about a winged character. Just because. No matter how hard I tried, though, I just couldn’t build a story around that little bud. So I put it away. That was also around the time I got into dystopian literature and had the urge to just carve out a broken future of my own. I was also really interested in writing a steampunk novel at some point, but I wasn’t too sure it would happen, as I’m not a big fan of researching and researching and researching Victorian-era things. So I had to put that away, too.
            And one cold midnight, magic happened. A line popped into my head, so I busted out the Trusty Laptop and typed it out. The end result was the bumpy prologue for DEVASTATE.
3. A lot of writers (myself included) use music as a backdrop to their writing, do you? Do you have a specific song that gets you writing, or that seems to be the theme for your manuscript?
            It’s not very easy for me to find an addicting song that really gets me going, so call me excited when I first heard “Slow Life” by Grizzly Bear. The lyrics don’t represent STARSONG, but the song is just incredible. The haunting little lilt to it or whatever really fits the mood of STARSONG, and helps me get into the mood while working on it. It’s also the song that fits perfectly with one of one of my greater scenes. The Sucker Punch soundtrack has been an invaluable source of inspiration lately, for either STARSONG or DEVASTATE. Currently, only one song actually goes with a scene in STARSONG. For DEVASTATE, I’m hoping to find some songs that I’ll really like, but that also get me in the mood to write in a dark and gritty and broken tone. I’m always open to suggestions, by the way. *nudge, nudge*
4. Who would you say influenced your writing the most? Anybody you aspire to write like?
            I think Lauren Oliver has probably had the biggest impact on my writing as of yet. Sure, I’ll never reach her level of skill, but it’s obviously something worth aspiring to. Her way with words is just amazing, so I try to my best to make my writing as clean and smooth as possible. As for who I’d like to write like, it’d probably be a mix of Julie Kagawa/Lauren DeStefano. I’ll get there when I get there. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t have a cheap style of my own.
5. Everybody has their own challenges in writing, what would you say is the hardest thing for you to do in the writing process? What’s the thing you enjoy doing the most?
            The hardest thing for me would have to be writing through the first draft. See, I’m not the kind of guy who outlines his stuff. If I map it out, it’s all in my head, which seems a lot easier to me. So I basically kind of live in my stories as I’m writing them, typing and typing away, just waiting for my characters to do this or that or whatever. The thing I like the most about the writing process is actually going through the written material and shredding it to pieces, picking out all the unnecessary adverbs and purple prose or twisty descriptions that just don’t make sense, and then going back through and stitching up whatever’s left behind, only to dive back in and tighten/shine/smooth all those composited bits up.
6. First drafts always seem to suck, but in your experience how do your first drafts compare to your final or later drafts?
            If you read my blog, then you’ll know I’m very disdainful toward my first draft. It is horrible. I’m not saying this to garner any form of sympathy. You’d have to be a pretty good liar to even half convince me that it’s good. That being said, my second draft isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s like gold compared to its predecessor. My main issue with the second draft is the abundance of purple prose, unnecessary dialogue tags and things of the sort. Since I’ve already somewhat started working on the third draft (just writing out the revised prologue by hand) I can see that it’ll be thousands of times better than the second.
            So, case in point: compared to later drafts, my first draft will always be a disgusting, unreadable hunk of crap.
7. Finally, if you could only offer one piece of advice that you’ve learned to other teen writers what would it be?
            Don’t be afraid. Don’t not write the story bouncing around in your head just because you assume no one will accept it. There’s always going to be someone out there who needs it more than you know, more than they know, someone who will escape into the pages of your story and love it and dread the moment they have to tear themselves from the words. Don’t abandon your beloved story just to write to a certain trend. Write what you want to, not what the world wants you to.

Thanks for reading all, and may I leave you with saying: Have a nice Apocalypse!

O, and check out Juan’s blog HERE before we all spontaneously combust… or whatever is supposed to happen *shrugs*

Spring Break & Re-Telling Stories

10 Apr

Spring is blowing in, and the wind is bringing me fresh ideas, motivation, and inspiration. Along with a much needed “break” from school and TRACK!

**totally spazzes for a minute**

So that leaves all this week to writing “hypothetically…” But sadly (or well… not so sadly) I’m going on Vacation! Atlanta here I come! So, I won’t be blogging for a few days. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and maybe Friday (depending on when I get in) So to make up for my coming absence I will be double posting tomorrow (and of course doing a post today)!

So today I wanted to talk about re-writes/re-makes, or whatever you want to call them. For example “Beastly” by Alex Flinn is a remake of “Beauty & the Beast”. “Tangled” (hit Disney movie if you were wondering) is a remake of “Rapunzel”.  

Some people think “remakes are unoriginal” or show “a lack of  imagination.” But do they?

According to Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker there are only 7 basic plots. Now you can argue that there’s 3 or 37 but in Ally’s world there area 7. Feel free to disagree in the comments, but anyway there are only seven plots. You can read them or move on but here you go:

1. Overcoming the monster — defeating some force which threatens… e.g. most Hollywood movies; Star Wars, James Bond.

2. The Quest — typically a group setoff in search of something and (usually) find it. e.g. Watership Down, Pilgrim’s Progress.

3. Journey and Return — the hero journeys away from home to somewhere different and finally comes back having experienced something and maybe changed for the better. e.g. Wizard of Oz, Gullivers Travels.

4. Comedy – not necessarily a funny plot. Some kind of misunderstanding or ignorance is created that keeps parties apart which is resolved towards the end bringing them back together. e.g. Bridget Jones Diary, War and Peace.

5. Tragedy – Someone is tempted in some way, vanity, greed etc and becomes increasingly desperate or trapped by their actions until at a climax they usually die. Unless it’s a Hollywood movie, when they escape to a happy ending. e.g. Devils’ Advocate, Hamlet.

6. Rebirth – hero is captured or oppressed and seems to be in a state of living death until it seems all is lost when miraculously they are

freed. e.g. Snow White.

7. Rags to Riches

Anyway, the point is that if there are only so many plots then technically everything is a re-make right?

I think the problem with “remakes” is that you have to find a balance between changing too much (and thus not staying true to the story) and changing too little (telling the exact same story with different words.

Personally, I don’t mind a good retelling I thought Beastly, for instance, was an excellent and refreshing, modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It stayed true to the original idea, and moral, but the author kept it hers by adding in her own personal twists (if you’ve read it you’ll know what I’m talking about with the ending! Totally didn’t see it coming!)

Classics are classics for a reason. I don’t think there is any reason not to draw on these to support our own stories! What do you all think? Have you ever read a really good retelling or a really bad one? Would you ever consider writing a retelling?